7 April 2021

In this blog, Dr Hasan Rizvi Clinical Lead for the Pathology Portal, outlines the aims of the project and the progress made so far.

Dr Hansan Rizvi

Dr Hasan Rizvi, Clinical Lead, Pathology Portal.

Pathology Portal (formerly known as Digital Now) will be a new online platform enabling trainees to access and complete image-based training to support their learning. Having equitable access to materials aligned to the curricula the College offers will also ensure consistency and support a capability and competence driven approach. The first phase will include whole slide images from cellular pathology and haematology, but the aim is that the portal will also be available for all our pathology disciplines.

The brainchild of Professor Jo Martin, past College president, who is the project lead, Pathology Portal is being funded and co-developed with Health Education England (HEE) with the aim of launching in the summer this year as part of the Learning Hub.

In this blog I wanted to to share the aim of the project and some of the milestones we have achieved in the development or the platform so far.  

The aim is to provide: 

  • A single international platform for hosting cases, including whole slide scans (along with videos, Powerpoint® presentations and other common file formats) for healthcare training, quality assurance schemes and any learning activity.
  • Learning sets mapped to the College specialty curricula that provide a graded reporting framework for learning and assessment.
  • An adaptive learning approach that allows trainees to demonstrate proficiency in specialist areas of reporting to support independent reporting and an alternative to time-bound training.
  • A platform for our trainers to contribute cases and experience.

The hope is to allow flexibility in training and support any gaps in learning needs at local, regional and national level. Once fully developed, this will allow Schools of Pathology and Trusts to train existing and future healthcare workers with material that can be customised to individual needs. The platform is expected to serve a variety of purposes including provision of sub-specialist training material that is not widely available (e.g. diagnostic cytology, paediatric and neuropathology), supporting flexible training, return-to-work training, quality assurance and competence testing. It will support training as we move to more widespread adoption of online assessment – both formative and summative. Ultimately, it is hoped that this will help ease the burden on already overworked trainers, especially in areas of workforce shortages.

The portal will be offered as part of the Learning Hub, Health Education England’s new digital platform and will sit alongside other educational resources on the Hub. It will also be directly accessible from The Royal College of Pathologists' website. This will enable learners to join up their learning activity in a single place, making it easier and more user friendly to find, review and complete digital training.

The work for the project is divided into four phases:

  • Discovery – this included interviews and workshops with users and stakeholders, including trainers and trainees, to outline the functional requirements of the platform.
  • Alpha – again, working with users and stakeholders, this phase involved designing the platform. The end-results are design and technical prototypes along with a detailed document of the technological architecture required for each of the functional requirements from the Discovery phase.

The College, working with Health Education England’s Technology Enhanced Learning (HEE TEL) team appointed an external partner-  BJSS-  for the Discovery and Alpha phase, which concluded in July last year.

The next phases of the project are:

  • Beta – the building phase  - an iterative process - this results in a minimum viable product (MVP) with basic functionality as outlined and designed in the first two phases. This is then tested by users who evaluate functionality and feedback to the technical developers who in turn re-design/re-build, as required. This happens over multiple cycles with refinement of functionality over time. The project team members from the College and HEE are currently working on the beta phase with Softwire – our external commercial partner for this phase.
  • Live – This is when the functional product is rolled out widely and needs ongoing support and (hopefully) minor tweaks. Over last summer, I worked closely with colleagues in HEE’s TEL Team to develop an internal business case to provide ongoing support for the project within HEE and this resulted in additional funding to support the development of this portal. I also worked with colleagues in the College and HEE’s TEL team to draft the procurement framework and after an open tendering process led by the College, we selected Softwire as the external parts for the development of this platform. The team from Softwire has started working with the Learning Hub team – both guided by the College team – to develop the portal. The first iteration is expected to be ready by the end of summer. Following the beta phase, we will invite users to undertake testing of the platform and will be incorporating user feedback before the portal will go live in the summer this year.

Editorial and External Advisory Board

The project will require development of content with input from and editorial oversight by College fellows and members which will be in the form of a permanent Editorial and External Advisory Board.

The Board will be responsible for coordinating and overseeing the compilation and creation of specialist for the platform and will be made up of editors from a wide range of specialties, including trainees, trainers, consultants, and biomedical scientists.

We are currently in the process of recruiting to the board following a very successful advert response and hope to be able to appoint members in April.

I continue to support Professor Martin in the role of Clinical Lead, as we continue the development of the Pathology Portal and I am looking forward to using it when it launches!

Dr Hasan Rizvi, Clinical Lead, Pathology Portal.


For more information contact: [email protected]